As a bear lurked, hikers found a man's remains scattered near a campsite in the North Carolina portion of Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Friday, rangers said Saturday.
After finding an unoccupied tent, the backpackers saw what appeared to be human remains scattered across a nearby creek, "with a bear scavenging in the area," according to a park news release.
The hikers "quickly left" to get cell coverage and reported what they encountered to authorities, rangers said.
Rangers said the remains were found near Hazel Creek Trail. Park visitors can access the trail by catching a 30-minute boat shuttle across the western end of Lake Fontana, according to SmokiesInformation.org.
Law enforcement rangers and wildlife officers were dispatched to the site immediately after the emergency call came in just after 7 p.m.
"Staff arrived at campsite 82 shortly after midnight and confirmed the report of a deceased adult human male," according to park officials in the release.
Rangers said they also saw a bear "actively scavenging on the remains" and euthanized the animal.
Park officials were trying to notify the man's family Saturday before releasing his name. They said he was from out of state.
Rangers said the cause of death is unknown, although the investigation continues.
Hazel Creek Trail will remain closed until further notice between the juncture with Cold Springs Gap Trail and Welch Ridge Trail, park officials said. The nearby Backcountry Campsite 82 also is closed.
Officials urged park visitors to report bear incidents by calling 865-436-1230.
If you see a bear, watch but don't approach it, and never let it come toward you, according to the park's "What Do I Do if I see a Bear?" online page. It's against the law to get intentionally within 50 feet of a bear.
Bears are wild animals that are "dangerous and unpredictable," according to the site. If you happen upon one close by, it could act aggressively by "running toward you, making loud noises, or swatting the ground. The bear is demanding more space.
"Don't run, but slowly back away, watching the bear," according to the park site. "Increase the distance between you and the bear. The bear will probably do the same."
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!